What Stirs in the Garden of Eden (Campus)?

Lucius Reibel reveals the University’s hidden campus.

Did you know that St Andrews has another campus, located within biking distance at Guardbridge? If not, that’s not surprising. Eden Campus, as the location is called, has no halls of residence, no lecture theatres, and no chemistry labs. It is instead a £25 million energy centre that uses biomass-fuelled boilers to heat water, which is then piped to the main St Andrews campus. If you’ve taken a hot shower today, it’s possible that water was heated at Eden Campus. The whole enterprise has “phased carbon saving potential of at least 10,000 tonnes.”

Now that the heating project is complete, St. Andrews wants to go further. It has made “a £24 million bid, which, if successful, will further redevelop the site of the former paper mill at Guardbridge.” This bid is part of a larger, 1.84 billion pound package announced for developments across Tayside and Northeast Fife. According to an announcement made by the university, specific projects the university wants to pursue include:

  • An Advance Materials Centre incorporating circular bio-economy, biorefinery, and carbon reduction;
  • The Sandpit – a zero carbon integrated energy community to support industry and academia to create new ideas for innovation in a “sandpit” environment;
  • Eden Enterprise Centre – to provide capacity and support for innovators, start-ups and SMEs;
  • Location for a “living lab” environment to maximise knowledge transfer and learning to the community.

Of particular excitement to the surrounding communities is the promise of 500 new jobs created by these projects. While this is a welcome development for the region, as a student body we do have to ask how this investment helps us. The announcement by the university gives the impression that this is a project meant to intertwine local industries and St. Andrews academic specialists. St Andrews Quaestor and Factor Derek Watson’s stated end goal for Eden Campus is making “a genuine contribution to the government’s strategic objectives and society as a whole.” 

The previous project at Eden Campus has a very direct benefit for students: we get hot water. However, there is no obvious benefit for students coming from this project. According to the university, 350 university staff will relocate to Eden Campus once the new developments are finished, which leads to an important question: who are these staff members, and will they be replaced? While integrating town and gown is important, it is just as vital that the interests of the student body are not sacrificed, nor is their tuition money spent on endeavours that have no short or long term benefit to them.

However, judgment must not be passed too quickly. All we have from the university so far is one announcement. It may be the case that students will play a role at Eden Campus, or that the integration of local business with the university will lead to greater internship opportunities. The university does not even have the project confirmed yet; the university has only made a bid, albeit a bid with strong support from local government. Ultimately, we will need to wait for more detailed information from the university in the case they win their bid. We can take plenty of hot showers in the meantime.

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